Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The xx - Coexist

“Therapy is in love with you as I am” begins “Angels,” the first song from The XX’s sophomore effort, Coexist. For me, my therapy is focusing on why I fell in love with The xx’s debut in the first place.

The spacious atmospherics, the primitive arrangements, and the deadpanned deliveries all captured my heart, and the fact that it sounded nothing like anything else for that point in time were all good reasons to catch my eye.
Now, t
hat eye is beginning to wander as the band has returned with more of the same formula with some fancier window dressing. Coexist is presented with a much more polished blend, incorporating EDM elements (specifically beats) throughout the gloom, in an obvious attempt to garnish more fans to huddle next to their mope while they people watch with contempt at the club.

The socialization is alarming, and it makes me want to go back to my original review and dock a few stars from it. Because I feel like I have been taken for the proverbial ride with Coexist.

Whatever charm and credibility that came from the debut has been lost with The xx’s choice to become the darlings of mope for as many disenchanted youth as they can.

Don’t get me wrong, the desire to become as successful as one can be is not necessarily grounds for termination. But when you’ve created an image of invisibility and a sound that attempts to capture the overwhelming loneliness of youthful hearts breaking, you also develop a commitment to those listeners that the common emotion is real.

And there is the problem with Coexist; I can tell you if these emotions are real or entirely contrived out of a desire for mainstream rewards. Everything is so packaged, produced, and perfected that I don’t doubt for a second that XX can put together 11 songs of personal turmoil any more.  

While their debut seemed like the result of some very harsh years, perfectly reflected through one personally appointed debut. Coexist on the other hand, makes it sound like Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim are part of the image machine to begin with, walking each step of their existence with intentional purpose.

Which makes all of their depressive undertones come off as trite and disingenuous. And with traits like that, coexisting is the last of my thoughts.
Let this review serve as my Dear John letter to The xx.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Whitesnake Releases Live VHS Tape Made In Japan

Photo credit: Steve Johnston
Keep in mind that David Coverdale is now sixty-one years old, so when you hear the selling point "shot in stunning hd" you need to ask yourself if that is a good thing.

I have to be honest, a few years ago when David Coverdale released Forevermore and it received a few positive reviews, I dipped back into the Whitesnake catalog for a moment.

I found the UK mix of Slide It In and played it a few times.

Then I came to my senses and deleted it from my Itunes library.

(New York, NY) - Frontiers Records is pleased to announce the release of legendary rock band Whitesnake's new DVD/live CD package, Made In JapanMade In Japan is set for release on April 23rd in North America and will be available in several formats: a deluxe 2CD/DVD edition, Blu-ray and a standalone DVD.  The performance footage is shot in stunning HD in 5.1 and stereo and is taken from Whitesnake's co-headlining set at the "Loud Park" festival on October 11th, 2011 held at Saitama Super Arena in Japan during their "Forevermore World Tour."  The performance was initially recorded only for Japanese TV and future Loud Park promotions, but after three songs were broadcasted on a Loud Park highlights program in Japan, Whitesnake received unprecedented requests for this performance to be made available to the general public.  

Made In Japan contains songs from Whitesnake's most recent studio album, Forevermore, as well as classic hits such as "Is This Love," "Still Of The Night" and "Here I Go Again."  The bonus CD also includes never-before-heard outtakes and acoustic versions of material from the award-winning Foverevermore album that were recorded during soundchecks on the 2011 Japanese tour.  Additional DVD content includes various band photo slideshows and fan-shot videos.  Please see below for the full content listing.

Formed in 1977, and steered by the legendary David Coverdale, Whitesnake carry a rightful reputation as one of the world's leading rock bands. Coverdale's blues roots, combined with a feral sense of rock and roll, have consistently shaped the 'Snake's sound along with Coverdale's love and appreciation of impeccable musicianship. Whitesnake's ascent to the very top of the rock n' roll heap was confirmed with 1987's self-titled mega-platinum album, which saw two massive Top 10 hits, two #1 singles with "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love" and a virtual 24-hour domination of MTV around the world.  David Coverdale was recently named one of Revolver's "100 Greatest Living Rock Stars" and the UK's Kerrang voted Coverdale the "Last Great Rock Star."  Musicians on MADE IN JAPAN include David Coverdale (vocals), Doug Aldrich (guitars), Reb Beach (guitars), Michael Devin (bass), Briian Tichy (drums) and special guest Brian Ruedy (keyboards).

MADE IN JAPAN track listing:

CD 1
1.    Best Years
2.    Give Me All Your Love Tonight
3.    Love Ain't No Stranger
4.    Is This Love
5.    Steal Your Heart Away
6.    Forevermore
7.    Six String Showdown
8.    Love Will Set You Free
9.    Drum Solo
10.  Fool For Your Loving
11.  Here I Go Again
12.  Still Of The Night

1.    Love Will Set You Free 
2.    Steal Your Heart Away 
3.    Fare Thee Well (acoustic)
4.    One Of These Days (acoustic)
5.    Lay Down Your Love
6.    Evil Ways 
7.    Good To Be Bad (acoustic)
8.    Tell Me How (acoustic)

1.    Best Years
2.    Give Me All Your Love Tonight
3.    Love Ain't No Stranger
4.    Is This Love
5.    Steal Your Heart Away
6.    Forevermore
7.    Six String Showdown
8.    Love Will Set You Free
9.    Drum Solo
10.   Fool For Your Loving
11.   Here I Go Again
12.   Still Of The Night
13.   Forevermore (fan video)
14.   Steal Your Heart Away (fan video)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pissed Jeans - Honeys

With every grunt, scream and “Oooh!” that Pissed Jeans’ mouth Matt Korvette musters, you’d think that America just announced intentions at another military escalation or some other sort of national calamity to warrant such guttural intensity.

But no, Korvette’s frenzy is merely the result of a more immediate concern: the person having a very vocal meltdown right in front of him. It started in the kitchen, but by the time he’s desperately tried to remove himself from the situation, it’s stumbled outside of the apartment. “You’re in the hallway screaming,” he barks, continuing, “In the hallway screaming/People try to get by/But you’re screaming!”

It’s just another domestic situation, but Pissed Jeans manage to turn the entire event into two and a half minutes of compelling punk rock, echoing the ferocity of their obvious influences while making a strong case to anyone stuck in yesterday’s hardcore crater that the genre is doing quite well without your wrinkled ass getting in the way at the all-ages shows.

Not that the members of Pissed Jeans are spring chickens, and never mind that their fourth long player took four years to make-a lifetime in punk rock circles. Honeys demonstrates that the band have been dutifully sharpening their chops, using moments of their mundane existence as fodder for strong song ideas.

Honeys is a blessing for the rest of us too caught up with mortgages and health care for the family to be brave enough to say the things that we’re really thinking about in our cubicles.

What does Pissed Jeans suggest when it comes to health care?

“Stay away from doctors.”

There are more moments of sage advise throughout the record, as well as poignant observations of our moronic co-workers and others who filter in and around our everyday existence. In fact, “Cafeteria Food” has become my day job mantra, thanks to the following opening lines:

“Hey there project manager
I saw you eatin cafeteria food
So you wanna call that a ‘healthy choice’
Well I’d argue that isn’t true
Stick figure family on the back of your car
You know I find that to be rude
Walkin’ around like you own the place
You must think you’re some kind of dude.”

For anyone that shares a curious hatred for those stick figure emblems and retarded project managers, behold your new favorite song. And, spoiler alert: the project manager dies, making Korvette feel like he found out he just received another floating holiday.

Honeys may be punk rock’s most detailed sledgehammer of an album since the Jesus Lizard’s Liar, and it shares many of that landmark document’s hidden brilliance.

For one, guitarist Bradley Fry seems to have studied hard at the feet of both Duane Denison and Greg Ginn, blending both influences into his own style. It’s his success that elevates Honeys beyond what a punk rock record needs to achieve to become a decent document. Fry’s performance, a very knowledgeable blend of homage, catchiness and experimentation, places the band itself into a higher elevation.

It’s from that mountain of angry tones and breakneck tempos where Honeys descends upon the American worker bee design and becomes probably the most honest record you’ll hear all year long while making Monday morning tolerable in the process.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Hooters - Nervous Night

How far would you go to hear a record?

And by “how far,” I don’t mean in terms of physical distance. I mean “how far” in the sense of would you turn around after setting out on your morning commute, or simply to get up off your couch and change the platter, just like we did in the old days when everything was better.

By modern parlance, “how far” for me means dicking with my laptop and three in the morning, checking registry files to see why your fucking machine no longer thinks you have a CD/DVD player anymore. And you have The Hooters Nervous Night in the device and you’d like to hear it.

I won’t pretend that Nervous Night is worth turning around for, or is a record that one should get all bent out of shape about if it’s trapped inside the confines of a disc drive that, according to your Toshiba Satellite, no longer exists.

Hailing from Philadelphia, The Hooters are an unfortunately named band with a novelty instrument as their primary recognition, both of which seemed to doom the band to near one-hit-wonder status and complete irrelevance some decades later.

They are a pop band, and the record in question did quite well upon its release, which is 1985, if you’re wondering why I’m writing about a band/record that you’ve never heard of before. I don’t blame you, as pop records generally peak during their moment of influence before succumbing to nothing more than a nostalgic thought.

Nervous Night is actually The Hooters second release, it’s first was an indie and it too did quite well for “indie” standards. That record, Amore, sold about 100,000 copies and it got Columbia Records’ attention enough for them to suggest the two primary creative units in the band-Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman-to help their recent signing of Cyndi Lauper for her debut record, She’s So Unusual.

It also prompted the record company to take a closer look at The Hooters too, a band that had actually broken up by the time Columbia signed the band to a multi-record deal, one that began with Nervous Night.

The album contained three re-worked songs that originally appeared on Amore, and it included a much larger promotional budget that allowed for exposure on MTV. The label wisely started their push with the decidedly un-radio friendly “All You Zombies,” a song that logged over five-minutes in length and featured some biblical subject matters.

I’m betting that if “All You Zombies” had been shelved as Nervous Night’s lead-off track and replaced with the decidedly more poppy “And We Danced” or “Day By Day,” two tracks that ended up as the follow-up singles and the record’s most visible tracks, I wouldn’t had purchased the album.

But because “All You Zombies” is mysterious and a departure from what one normally hears on MTV, it intrigued me to the point where I forked over the $15 (1985 prices to boot) and walked away with a copy.

Strangely enough, my original copy didn’t contain the title track. I remember well after the purchase, seeing a live performance video of The Hooters where they played “Nervous Night” and wondered why it wasn’t included on the namesake. Several years later, I got a promotional copy of Nervous Night for the radio station I worked at and noticed the total number of tracks on that disc was 10, not the normal 9 that I was accustomed to.

Sure enough, that copy of Nervous Night included the title track, but no one at Columbia Records could confirm for me how many copies of the original were pressed without that cut (I was into that kind of shit back then).

The love of the title track won against any suggestion of how rare my version could have been; I swapped my copy with the one acquired for the station.

Strange as it may seem, the addition of “Nervous Night” feels slightly out of place at cut 5, the last track of side one. It’s almost as if the song never really found its place on its own record, and whether intentionally left off the original pressing or not, feels tacked on with its current position.

It works as the penultimate track, which is served on the release by a pedestrian cover of Love’s “She Comes In Colors,” a version that actually introduced me to Arthur Love’s noteworthy band from Los Angeles some twenty years prior.

And even though the two bands are night and day apart in term of sound, both seem to share defiance in their particular streets of origin. Southern California was not known for the complex pop sounds of Forever Changes just as Philadelphia is not regarded as a beacon of reggae rhythms and folkie arrangements. Yet both bands navigate within the pop realm with a skewed sense of arrangement and an outlook that is beyond the sounds normally associated with their hometown.

All of this is just a fancy way of saying that Nervous Night contains 10 (or 9) tracks of taught pop bliss, fluctuating between standard guitar oriented jangle, Jamaican rhythms, and the most notorious use of a melodica since Augustus Pablo (who the band rightfully acknowledges in their liner notes).

The Hooters never set out to change the world, or to become Philadelphia oddball group of commercial notoriety. What they did on Nervous Night was to release a record of deserved success, a unique blend of good-natured experimentation next to some good old-fashioned songcraft.

The fact that kids today have forgotten them or that the record isn’t revered as a major component in today’s pop formula is irrelevant when you’re enjoying The Hooters early commercial breakthrough. It’s a record that still sounds good today, primarily because it sounded like nothing else back then.

Nervous Night is worthy enough for a new or an additional listen. Or in my case, it was worth the late-night troubleshooting fiasco that came from attempting to transfer one “state of the art” delivery method to a new one.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Down - IV: Part One

The idea is intriguing enough: an immediate extended play designed to highlight a different facet of the band’s personality.

Unfortunately, the band in this case is Down and the personality resides firmly on the massive ego that is frontman Phil Anselmo.

Down IV: Part One (The Purple e.p.) represents the heavier side of the band, a mammoth-pace sludgefeast that wears such worthy influences like Kyuss and Saint Vitus boldly on its sleeve.

But while the production deficiencies found within the catalog of both of those bands have proven to be critical to their legacy, it was also created from a budgetary need. Neither band had much money to work with, and what they did have was usually outdated and unreliable.

This isn’t the case with Down, and while there’s nothing to suggest that these New Orleans refugees can throw money around the studio, they certainly should have enough cash on hand to deliver a properly mixed release, especially on one designed to focus on their riffage.

The e.p. begins with the slow fade in of a skull-crushing riff. It keeps building, until a minute in some nifty guitar harmonics arrive. There’s still no vocals in the mix, no bass either, and outside of the dry snare crack and dead thud of the drummer’s bass drum, hardly any dynamics to the drums.

It certainly sounds raw, to an extent, but it isn’t until Anselmo blurts out “One, two, three, GO!” that you realize how fucked up the mix really is.

Anselmo’s always been a one-trick pony when it comes to vocal ability, but on Down IV: Part One, you’d think that he’s fucking Pavarotti considering how high in the mix they’ve put his vocals. After each lazy line, Phil works up some even lazier delivery, occasionally belching out the song title for the chorus, each burp even louder in the mix than the last.

Underneath his dominance is a layer of sludge that carries no real identity or, more importantly, bite. On “Open Coffins,” Anselmo encourages his guitarists Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein to “Tear that shit up young son,” with every follow-up bark of “Yeah” and “That’s what I’m talking about” his mouth overtakes the amplifier, defeating any notion that shit was indeed, tore up.

What’s left is a very egocentric project that plods along at a clumsy pace, hardly adhering to its original intent and doing little to suggest that we need a sequel.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mogwai Walk With Ghosts On New Soundtrack Album

Here's some information on the upcoming Mogwai release, the soundtrack album to the French supernatural television series Les Revenants. It's a show that I've never seen before, yet I will go out on a limb and say that it's probably infinitely more better than True Blood.

An emotionally charged press release follows along with a free sampling of one of the tracks from Mogwai's offerings.

Sub Pop will release Mogwai’s soundtrack for Les Revenants, the French supernatural thriller and most popular TV series in Canal + history, on February 26 in North America on LP, CD, and digitally. As previously announced, Les Revenants will also see release in Europe on February 25 via the band’s imprint, Rock Action.

There’s something to be said for a band that, seven studio albums, two soundtracks, a live album and two remix albums into their career, can still twist their artistic journey towards fresh directions that continually surprise and reveal new aspects of their sound. If Mogwai’s decision to create the score to Canal+ supernatural thriller series Les Revenants (meaning ‘Ghosts’) came a little out of leftfield, then what they’ve come up with for the French television network probably wrong-footed even those that gave them the brief.

A quick background to Les Revenants: adapted from the eponymous Robin Campillo-directed 2004 film, the series unfolds in an isolated French mountain town, where the locals are troubled after children who were tragically killed in a bus crash appear to come back to life, unaware that they’d died. A wonderfully captured perennial sense of unease and limbo sustains throughout each episode, with dully lit scenes and a sparsely-set location adding to the atmosphere. “We were actually big fans of the director Fabrice Gobert’s film Simon Werner a disparu, which had a soundtrack by Sonic Youth,” comments Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite of their decision to take the project, “and we found the story for Les Revenants incredibly interesting.”

The band was approached on the basis of their phenomenal work for the Douglas Gordon documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Much like on that Zidane soundtrack, the group have turned away again from their recognised path towards the fascinating new; their familiar layers on layers of textural guitar have been stripped away, allowing isolated piano and keys to wander with grip-like tension through the fourteen tracks. There’s something intangibly Mogwai here still, but it’s been refracted through a fresh prism.

“The whole process was completely new for us,” says Braithwaite in explaining this departure. “The remit given to us was very vague – which was ideal – but we were still working to instruction for the first time, which offered a new kind of limitation. As it was a TV series soundtrack too, there was more than four times the amount of screen time for us to put music to, had to be created in a short period of time.” That condensed nature of writing and recording is what gives the Les Revenants soundtrack its sense of immediacy. Much more has been made of repetition and looped motifs, used to enhance the both the anxiety of what’s unfolding on the screen, and also as a device for the group to experiment with refined dynamics in a new way.

“The tension is in the story already so, with that in mind, all we felt necessary was to add to the atmosphere” comments Braithwaite on the feeling of restraint that runs through the record. “This definitely made the music more subdued than a normal Mogwai record, where the atmosphere is needed to be created completely by the music.”

Amidst this drawn out cord of nervous energy, though, was one complete curio: “Initially we had to send the producers a load of demos and I found this cover version Washington Phillips’ ‘What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?’ I’d done solo that I’d intended to submit to a tribute album to late musician Jack Rose [from noise/drone band Pelt who died of a heart attack in 2009]. It was a surprise that they used it but it fitted well in the end.” Braithwaite’s paean to his former friend is an arrestingly beautiful rearrangement of the 1920’s Texan gospel singer’s original, completely unlike anything released under the Mogwai name and a perfect contrast to the rest of the soundtrack’s subtle agitation. But then that’s Mogwai for you: always evolving, always surprising - this is another sublime addition to their canon.

Mogwai Les Revenants soundtrack Tracklisting:

1. Hungry Face
2. Jaguar
3. The Huts
4. Kill Jester
5. This Messiah Needs Watching
6. Whisky Time
7. Special N
8. Relative Hysteria
9. Fridge Magic
10. Portugal
11. Eagle Tax
12. Modern
13. What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?
14. Wizard Motor

Friday, February 15, 2013

Elton John - Caribou

My first recollection of Caribou is from a drunken night with an Episcopal priest in my hometown. He was a young priest, mid-30s, while I was barely out of high school. He made classic drinks and his humidor was filled with exotic tobaccos and a pack of Camel no filters.

His record collection was not as impressive, as it contained an excessive amount of classical music and very little pop titles. The titles that a young man would recognize were leftovers from his days before seminary school, relics before he took a vow.

The alcohol made him a bit looser, to the point where he put down his glass of whiskey and bitters on the rocks and pulled out a record.

“You’ve got to hear this song by Elton John,” he advised, pulling out a copy of the superstar’s Caribou album.

For most, Caribou is remembered by the hit “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” later referred to as “Don’t Let Your Son Go Down On Me” when Reg finally came out.

The record also kicks off with another hit, “The Bitch Is Back,” a staple of Top 40 radio stations during the 70’s as they explored flexing their community standards with a song that sounded so naughty on the surface.

But the Priest wasn’t about to play me those simpleton hits from Caribou. Instead, he dug deep to the last track, “Ticking,” a character study of a man who snaps and kills a bunch of people hostage in some diner.

It’s pedestrian by Bernie Taupin standards, filled with all sorts of clich├ęs and phony dynamics, making the song seem deeper than it actually is. Elton plays the song bare with plenty of tinkling ivories. Aside from a few vocal overdubs and an occasional synthesizer, the song clearly intends to end Caribou on a deep and reflective note, which is strange, as the rest of the album is the sound of Elton getting comfortable with his superstar status.

The Priest attempts to get comfortable with his former life, singing into his drink a showy reading of the lyrics-the alcohol only playing havoc with his timing at points, particularly during dramatic pause of the chorus, “ticking….ticking”

It was clear that the Priest thought the world of Caribou, as I’m sure it represented a moment in his life where the entire world was ahead of him. There are many records in my own collection where their appeal is more towards nostalgic fondness than actual worthiness.  To that point, I would certainly try to give an honest appraisal of a record’s ranking, and at the risk of the holy wrath that may come from admitting this, Elton John’s Caribou is the beginning of many disappointments from the artist.

Ironically, Caribou finds itself in between two of Elton’s greatest triumphs-Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Like its predecessor, Caribou was built entirely around time constraints and outside pressures. The biggest difference is that G.Y.B.R. revels in the diversity of its brief creative spurt while Caribou shows how bad things could get when you press for too much too soon.

Because, apart from the widely fluctuating appeal of the record’s two hits and the eerily contemporary curio of “Ticking,” Caribou offers little in terms of both redeeming value or artist development. In fact, it is the epitome of what can politely be considered a “rush job” when its entire package can more accurately be described as a “hose job.”

“Solar Prestige A Gammon” finds Elton trying to test the hypothesis that if he hangs out with ex-members of the Beatles long enough, some of their genius will rub off.  The track pointedly disproves this hypothesis while anally raping the English language in the process.

“Dixie Lily” finds Elton prepping a riverboat tune for a possible skit in The Muppet Show while “Stinker” is the most appropriately titled Elton John song in his entire catalog.

And if the good Lord strikes me dead, the only reason why Caribou gets a generous two-star rating comes at the inclusion of three awesome bonus tracks for the reissue version of this record. They are the seasonal favorite, “Step Into Christmas,” the fairly decent cover of The Who's "Pinball Wizard" from the otherwise shitty Tommy soundtrack and the b-side to “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” “Sick City.” In fact, “Sick City” is so good that you’ll wonder why it was delegated to just a flip-side status, especially after hearing the flaccid selections chosen for inclusion on Caribou.

As easy as it is to explain why Caribou is such a setback, the record does very little at hinting how good Captain Fantastic would eventually become. Unfortunately, it would also set the standard for Elton’s ensuing mediocrity. The timing of Caribou would give the record a bit of nostalgic sheen-and somewhat of a religious blessing in terms of my old Priest’s support-but as God as my witness, it does little to warrant further examination or add to Elton’s prodigious 70’s output in any meaningful fashion.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Surfer Blood Draws Cheap First Blood Reference For Foals Opening Slot

Here's some info on one of the bands that will be opening up during the Foals tour this spring. Your mileage may vary, but here's what the unbiased folks at their record label suggest. 

Light fuse and get away, dummies.

February 11, 2013 - West Palm Beach rock band Surfer Blood have set a June 11th release date for their new album and Warner Bros Records debut Pythons

Front man JP Pitts, Thomas Fekete (guitar), Kevin Williams (bass) and Tyler Schwarz (drums) recorded Pythons in Los Angeles with producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Echo and the Bunnymen.) Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Guided By Voices) mixed the album.

Pythons is the follow-up to Surfer Blood's critically-acclaimed debut album Astro Coast, which earned spots on "best of" lists from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Filter, Paste, NME and the BBC. NPR's Bob Boilen called Astro Coast his "favorite album of 2010" and declared Surfer Blood to be "America's best new pop band."

After a string of West Coast fan shows starting later this month, Surfer Blood will hit SXSW, followed by a two-month long North American run supporting Foals. Full tour dates are below.

2/24 - Santa Cruz, CA - The Crepe Palace*       
2/25 - San Francisco, CA - Brick and Mortar*      
2/26 - Sacramento, CA - Blue Lamp* 
2/27 - Santa Barbara, CA - Muddy Waters*  
3/1 - Los Angeles, CA - The Echo* 
3/2 - Riverside, CA - UCR Heat Festival        
3/3 - San Diego, CA - Casbah*
3/10 - Grand Park, CO - Snowball Music Festival
4/25 - Houston, TX - Fitzgeralds**
4/26 - Dallas, TX- House of Blues**
4/27 - Austin, TX -- Emo's**
4/28 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues**
4/30 - Atlanta, GA - Goat Farm**
5/1 - Charlotte, NC - Neighborhood Theatre**
5/3 - New York, NY - Terminal 5**
5/4 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory**
5/5 - Washington, DC - 930 Club**
5/6 - Albany, NY - Upstate Concert Hall**
5/8 - Providence, RI - The Met**
5/9 - Boston, MA - House of Blues**
5/10 - Montreal, QC - Club Soda**
5/11 - Toronto, ON - Koolhaus**
5/13 - Cleveland, OH - House of Blues**
5/14 - Cincinnati, OH - Bogarts**
5/15 - Columbus, OH - Newport Music Hall**
5/17 - Indianapolis, IN - Deluxe**
5/18 - Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre**
5/19 - Milwaukee, WI - Turner Hall**
5/20 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue**
5/21 - Fargo, ND - The Aquarium*
5/25 - George, WA - Sasquatch! Music Festival 
5/29 - Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom**
5/30 - Vancouver, BC - Commodore**
5/31 - Seattle, WA - Neptune**
6/3 - Salt Lake City, UT - The Depot**
6/5 - Lawrence, KS - Granada**
6/7 - St. Louis, MO - Pageant**
6/9 - Pittsburgh, PA - Mr. Smalls**
6/11 - Baltimore, MD - Ram's Head**
6/12 - Asheville, NC - Orange Peel**

*Headline Show
**With Foals

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Foals Announce North American Tour

Shirts courtesy of the Game of Thrones gift shop.
A review for the new Foals album Holy Fire is in the works, but for now the record is also adding additional saliva to the prospect of seeing the songs performed live. A quick spin is proving to be worthy of additional ones, and the arrangements within it sound like they could really take off on stage.

The record is out now, and the band has just announced their plans for a headlining tour of North America, the details of which are found in the promotional correspondence below.

February 11, 2013 - Foals have announced a North American headline tour. The two-month long run kicks off April 10th in Reno, NV, continues with two performances at Coachella, and runs through June 12th in Asheville, NC. Tickets go on sale starting Friday, February 15th. Surfer Blood and Blondfire will support.
The tour supports Foals' third full-length album, Holy Fire, available via Warner Bros Records in the US.   

Produced by Flood & Moulder (PJ Harvey, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins) at Assault & Battery studios in London, Holy Fire has received effusive early praise. "Foals have established themselves as one of the most exciting bands in the UK" said Q, who gave the album four stars. NME gave Holy Fire a rare 9/10 review, declaring "2013 is in safe hands," and VICE agreed, saying "they're back and their f**king good."

The Oxford five-piece released their debut album Antidotes in 2008, followed by 2010's breakthrough Total Life Forever.  Both are certified gold. Total Life Forever was nominated for the 2010 Mercury Prize and an Ivor Novello award, and they received five nods at the 2011 NME awards, winning Best Single for "Spanish Sahara."

Foals North American Tour Dates:

4/10 -Reno, NV - Knitting Factory **
4/11 - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore**
4/12 - Indio, CA - Coachella
4/13 - Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues**
4/18 - Tempe, AZ - Marquee Theatre**
4/19 - Indio, CA - Coachella
4/20 - Sacramento, CA - Ace of Spades
4/22 - Mexico City, MEX - El Plaza Condesa
4/25 - Houston, TX - Fitzgeralds*
4/26 - Dallas, TX- House of Blues*
4/27 - Austin, TX -- Emo's*
4/28 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues*
4/30 - Atlanta, GA - Goat Farm*
5/1 - Charlotte, NC - Neighborhood Theatre*
5/3 - New York, NY - Terminal 5*
5/4 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory*
5/5 - Washington, DC - 930 Club*
5/6 - Albany, NY - Upstate Concert Hall*
5/8 - Providence, RI - The Met*
5/9 - Boston, MA - House of Blues*
5/10 - Montreal, QC - Club Soda*
5/11 - Toronto, ON - Koolhaus*
5/13 - Cleveland, OH - House of Blues*
5/14 - Cincinnati, OH - Bogarts*
5/15 - Columbus, OH - Newport Music Hall*
5/17 - Indianapolis, IN - Deluxe*
5/18 - Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre*
5/19 - Milwaukee, WI - Turner Hall*
5/20 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue*
5/29 - Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom*
5/30 - Vancouver, BC - Commodore*
5/31 - Seattle, WA - Neptune*
6/3 - Salt Lake City, UT - The Depot*
6/4 - Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre***
6/5 - Lawrence, KS - Granada*
6/7 - St. Louis, MO - Pageant*
6/9 - Pittsburgh, PA - Mr. Smalls*
6/11 - Baltimore, MD - Ram's Head*
6/12 - Asheville, NC - Orange Peel*
*with Surfer Blood and Blondfire
**with The Neighbourhood
***with Blondfire

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob

If Tegan and Sara’s last album, Sainthood, showed the Quinn sisters inching towards commercialism through a rhythmic snythpop structures, then Heartthrob finds them taking giant steps towards actually morphing into conformed pop act, now playing on your teenage niece’s iPod.

For some-myself included-this transition has proved to be troubling. Stylistic opinion aside, the curious part of it all was “Why now?” Tegan and Sara Quinn are firmly past thirty, and should theoretically be over trying to play footsie with Top 40 radio and mainstream America. Wouldn’t it make more sense to make more of the smartly appointed direction of previous high-points like The Con or So Jealous? Both of those efforts made a point to branch away from their acoustic beginnings and Lilith Fair labels while adhering to a higher standard of quality control.  

For Tegan and Sara to begin pining for the lowest common denominator seemed a bit of a letdown, and Sainthood ended up confirming that a bit.  So forgive me if my excitement level dropped the moment I heard Heartthrob’s lead-off single “Closer” as it confirmed the synthpop direction would be continuing, and the Quinn’s would even be adding more sugar to the mix, making the entire record a tooth-rotting affair.

Heartthrob is indeed, all of those previous descriptives-well, maybe “tooth-rotting” is a bit harsh-but it is also incredibly coy. It doesn’t take long before you’re riding out the sugar coma from Tegan and Sara’s own HFCS complacency, shamelessly addicted to the contrived songs they’ve served on this tight ten track package.  

The difference with album number seven is how both sisters seem on board with this controversial departure and commitment to accessibility, which is Heartthrob’s ironic moment. By going all in, Tegan and Sara sound strong enough to withstand all the inevitable attacks of selling out, but what will end up silencing most critics of their decision is how good Heartthrob actually sounds.

Within the record’s sonic precision and scaled back lyrical examination, Tegan and Sara place much of their burden upon the shoulders of others. Despite all of the cooks in the kitchen, Heartthrob still sounds uniquely like Tegan and Sara. It also shows how good Tegan and Sara could sound on the radio. By capturing the nuances of the Quinn sisters’ charm and gutting much of the self-analysis from their lyrics, Heartthrob is more about the essence of Tegan and Sara than a reflection of their prior work.

But the surprise ends up becoming how compelling Heartthrob is, even when that essence is filtered through a different part of the sonic spectrum.  It’s an inspired and infectious effort, and one that validates the Quinn sister’s desire to empower a larger audience with their music.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bentcousin - Everybody's Got One

And yet another entry in the entire boy/girl duo, primitive by design, and this time featuring real live twins!

Bentcousin are 22-year-old twin siblings, Amelia and Pat Innit, who bring bright and jangly pop songs with their debut Everybody’s Got One.

The primitive nature is not so much intentional as it is because neither brother nor sister seems to have much musical ability to begin with. Unfortunately, their complacency about the arrangements also suggests that they don’t seem to give a shit about it.

Everybody’s Got One mostly finds the pair striking out on a few guitar chords through a practice amp, propelled by a tentatively played trap kit. The performance is indicative of exactly what you’d expect this line up to sound like within its first year of existence: basic, shaky, and forgettable.

So what gives these noobs a free pass at the whole paying your dues route to the point where we’re already talking the release of their debut extended play?

Bentcousin are a novelty act, utilizing Amelia’s cutesy sing-song musings on relationships while brother Pat seems to take his role more seriously, earnestly belting out his contributions while offering even less personality than his sister in the process.

So the half-dozen songs on Everybody’s Got One amount to journal scribes of someone in their early twenties with very little to say. Some may find this hokey, open page prose enduring, but it also speaks to the fact that Bentcousin really didn’t have much substance behind their fast-track career path, begging the question, “Are we really hearing the best that Bentcousin can come up with or are we hearing the best of their abilities?”

The highpoint comes at the end (ha!) with Amelia’s “I ThinkI Like Your Girlfriend More Than You,” a friendly observational piece that’s sure to get a few people to chuckle and think “How clever!”

It’s not, and it’s because all of the honesty of the song title is sucked out when Amelia she offers up her proof: “You didn’t make it to her fondue” and “You went out drinkin’ when she had the flu.”  It’s then you realize that they’ve created an entire song inspired by one provocative line, but beyond the blunt declaration, there is nothing.

I suppose I could place all of Everybody’s Got One on their inexperience and suggest that bentcousin will get better as they develop and get more experience. But judging by the half-dozen songs they have offered up on their first musical endeavors, I’d say that the one thing Bentcousin doesn’t have is the kind of talent to warrant the endeavor to begin with.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pony Time - Go Find Your Own

Plagued with the world’s worst band name (in case you're wondering, it's a Chubby Checker song) and immediately hindering the band’s chances of never being compared to the White Stripes, thanks to the whole boy/girl duo vs. guitar/drums reprise, Seattle’s Pony Time make the tube amps aglow and Gary Roslie smile.

Go Find Your Own is a charming dozen of redwood cavestomping, thanks in large part to Iowa native Stacy Peck’s forward leaning drumming. Luke Beetham covers his fey yelp with lots of reverb, barely hiding the fact that he’s about as menacing as Fred Schneider in a mosh pit.

He dirties things up by sticking with distorted baritone guitar, and frequently a “fuck you” primitiveness of nothing more than a gut-punching fuzz bass guitar. It’s got a good beat and it’s easy to dance to, which is the intent of Go Find Your Own to an extent, because there are moments within Beetham’s prose where you get the impression that more time was spent working on the song’s vibe rather than the lyric sheet.

After a haphazard first half, side two begins with the slicing “Geordie.” At 2:44, it’s one of the record’s longest cuts, and it’s spent on smacking the vitriol up a notch and creating tension within its tit-for-tat guitar stabs.

The next song, “Lesbian Mayor,” cuts the time off by a minute, but raises the chaos by a third with Peck turning Beetham’s wicked bass runs into a dervish of garage punk bliss. It ends up being the record’s high point and received several post-coital spins after the glow left in the wake of Go Find Your Own’s winning second half.

Yes, as hard as it may seem, I was able to forgive such lines “I’m so hungry/But I’ve got no food/Guess I better go to the store” and overlook how this formula should have no place in my repeated listening pile of 2013. There is something special with Pony Time’s unfiltered approach, even when you get the impression that the road they’ve traveled was paved by similarly-minded folks with tons more talent.

Just the fact that they’re barking away is half of it, but the other half is understanding that a good rock and roll song doesn’t need a bunch of window dressing to begin with. With that being said, Go Find Your Own has a few good rock songs within its brief dozen.

Pony Time implore listeners to Go Find Your Own because they’ve obviously found theirs already. But if you happen to find it too, sleep on the band name to see if it has the same ring to it in the morning.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Disregard Of Timekeeping: How I Missed The Dirty Pearls Show And Went To Bed

I gave it my best shot, but in the end, the commitments of middle age won over.

It was a Tuesday night show, something that I’m usually opposed to in the first place, but on this weeknight, it seemed like I’d be able to take advantage of some social networking and check out a band that I’d barely heard before.

The band is the Dirty Pearls and they are from New York City.

They have a record out, Whether You Like It Or Not, and a friend of mine played me a copy of a couple tracks a few months back.

Evidently, a friend of his from way-back-when left the safety of a small town abode and made his way to New York City to become a studio engineer. He brought his guitar along, and when he approached a band called the Dirty Pearls to lobby for a production gig, they decided that his skills with the instrument were needed more than his engineering chops.

My friend reluctantly handed over the cd that he received to me to examine, possibly fearing that I wouldn’t receive it well. But I am a man of admirable tastes, and I can appreciate more than the average music fan.

This includes lite glam rock ruffians with a penchant for the noun “irony.”

Then I see it. Tucked away in a modest font is the producer: David Kahne.

“Holy shit!” I exclaim, “This thing was produced by David Kahne!” My enthusiasm is neither shared nor understood between the two other gentlemen in the room.

I begin to spit out the obligatory “Albums produced by David Kahne” list, trying to make a case for his credentials.

“Fishbone! Romeo Void!” I begin, immediately noticing that I am seriously dating myself and not bringing up anything relevant to the others present.

Instead, I suggest that landing a production spot with Mr. David Kahne could possibly be a six-figure investment. Obviously, my knowledge of this is seriously flawed and based entirely on my love of Truth & Soul and “Girl In Trouble (Is A Temporary Thing).”

The songs within Whether You Like It Or Not weren’t bad, but they also weren’t enough to remember Dirty Pearls. That is, until I got that aforementioned digital invite.

To make things easier, the band member with the local ties to the area offered “No Cover Charge” at a sports bar not to far from my comfortable home in the suburbs. It’s quiet around here, and with a “Doors open at 8:00 pm” tag line, you just begin to get into that feeling of not wanting to move, let alone take the five-minute drive to another fucking sports bar.

One of the comments that stood out on the number of automatic updates that I was receiving on my phone was the promise, “Don’t worry, we’ll have you home by midnight.” I should hope so, because I had already planned to saw a few logs well before that promise, and as I pulled up to the partially hidden cinder-block building just off the interstate.

I see an expanded late model van with New York plates pull into the parking lot ahead of me. It’s around 9:00 pm by this point, so I’m starting to beam at the notion that I’ve timed this outing perfectly.

I pull past the Indian grocery and then past the Mexican one. I find an open spot not too far from the bar and pull in to have a conversation with Bernie Kosar. Directly across from me, I notice someone in their car talking to Herb Tarlek. Conversations like these are common, if not required before a show featuring the Dirty Pearls.

It’s just a hair above freezing as I walk towards Otis' Tailgators, an impossibly bland sports bar with absolutely no personality or theme. There are several big screen televisions and even a few medium screen ones. In the back is a small stage, and making a very polite racket is an atypical power trio type.

I wasn’t expecting an opening band. For some reason I was thinking the entire event was some kind of organic uprising. A collection of locals celebrating their N.Y.C. transplant’s return to Iowa with a small performance at a cruddy sports bar.

With the clock at a quarter after nine, the tepid trio with the practice amps and part of the Dirty Pearls own drum kit played a competent collection of loud/soft offerings. I nursed a Crown and Diet Coke as the band, later discovered to be Resist and Reward, wrapped things up in their brief set.

A guy in a Hawkeyes hat and a Bettendorf, Iowa chapter of the pipefitters union jacket stood next to me and challenged gravity with his intoxication.

Someone recognized him and came up to say hello. After initiating some polite conversation starters, the union guy mumbled something incoherent and accentuated it with “What the fuck is this shit?”

His friend was confused and changed topics.

“I just got in. Was the opening band any good?”

“Nah,” replied the union guy, “they fuckin’ sucked.”

“What was their name?” asked the friend.

“Dirty Pearls.”

“Wait,” said the friend after a long pause, “are they playing next?”

They didn’t. Five dudes took the stage after the longest set change in history, which was “managed” by a chubby bald dude in a black polo shirt who just seemed to watch the band members set up their equipment and point to the floor of the stage every so often.

"Wire go there. Fire chord. Big bang pow. Hungry."

The drunken union guy moved towards the front and began yelling at the band to “Play some fucking rock and roll.” It appeared that the band(s) all had a few relatives in the audience, and this second band was no exception. At least, I think it was a relative of one of the band members who suddenly attempted to shut up the drunken union fellow by knocking off his Hawkeye hat.

He smiled at the middle-aged woman, had what appeared to be a nice conversation with her that included a drunken hug, and then returned to demanding that the band getting ready to perform, “Play some fucking rock and roll.”

John June Year listen to a lot of Strokes and Velvet Underground records. At least that’s what I heard during certain moments of their set, a moderately enjoyable one that could have used a bunch more guitar interplay and some justification as to why a synthesizer is even needed in the line up.

By now, we’re after 10:00 pm, and it becomes clear that when the Dirty Pearls say that “We’ll be out by midnight” they mean that they’ll get around to starting their set around 11, which is not something that I’m willing to endure on a Tuesday night.

Otis' Tailgators was nicely populated for a weeknight, but this big pussy would call it a night well before the headliners played a note.

Fuck that noise. Rock and roll is competing against more distractions than ever before. Why anyone would want to sacrifice more of a potential audience just to feed the fantasy that we’re all in a great big Slaughter video is beyond me. Up all night, sleep all day. That’s right.

We’re not. We go to work in the morning. We go to school in the morning. And we tell everyone there about the shit hot band that we caught at a reasonable hour.

I make dumb decisions about my sleep schedule when there’s a band that I want to see, and sometimes these decisions end up being very poor ones. But there is barely a chance in hell that I’m going to turn into a royal cunt for a couple of days because I decided to stay up past my bedtime to catch some band that I knew nothing about.

Here’s what I know about the Dirty Pearls at this point: They have a record you can buy. It was produced by David Kahne. The guitar player is from Iowa. When they stand next to a drunk dude wearing a Pipefitters Union jacket and a backwards Hawkeye hat, they look like total rock stars.

What I can’t tell you is if the Dirty Pearls did indeed play some fucking rock and roll. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Don't Kill The Messenger: Johnny Marr Comes With His First Solo Album While Moz Cancels First Iowa Appearance (Again)

For the second time, Morrissey has postponed his intimate date at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, in what would be the former Smiths' frontman first appearance on Iowa soil.

The first postponement last October came after the Mancunian's mother fell ill. The most recent announcement after the singer's own health took a turn for the worse after a bleeding ulcer caused him to back out of a number of dates, including the strange booking at the legendary venue, nearly 54 years after Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper played their last performance just prior to perishing in a plane crash shortly afterwards.

I'll admit, the entire date seemed a bit surreal, but now the godz of rock have intervened and said "No. This performance will not take place now and a rescheduling will be in order."

Meanwhile, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr says "Hey! How the fuck do you do?!" with a first ever solo release called The Messenger.

Photo Credit: Carl Lyttle
Of course, you have to wonder if Marr is better suited for a band contributor role rather than out front- I mean, it's been decades now, so why are we just now getting around to a solo record? One has to wonder about the entire need of it.

But here's some of the inbox press stuff that came with the announcement, along with the obligatory teaser video, which is automatically going to be nowhere near as good as the video to "How Soon Is Now."

The mesmerizing return of Johnny Marr continues, as the new video for his forthcoming single "Upstarts" is unveiled today at NME.com. The single is the first from Marr's highly-anticipated solo debut The Messenger due out February 26 (Sire/ADA) and available to preorder now via iTunes. Early acclaim comes from The Guardian who states "The Messenger sees him returning to the big tunes and unmistakable, cascading guitar arpeggios that made him the guitarist of his generation." Stereogum agrees, declaring The Messenger "excellent...it's an album that - in both sound and style - hearkens back to Marr's early days." Marr will set out on a solo tour of the U.K. in March. Stay tuned for additional dates to be announced in the U.S. and beyond.

The release of The Messenger marks a significant milestone in Marr's distinguished career. First known for his work alongside Morrissey as the creative force behind The Smiths, Marr has spent the last two decades collaborating with a diverse array of acclaimed bands, including Talking Heads, Pet Shop Boys, The The, Electronic and more. One of the most celebrated and influential guitarists in the history of contemporary music, Marr was a member of the Modest Mouse line-up for 2007's We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200. Similarly, Marr joined The Cribs when they hit the UK Top 10 with their 2009 release Ignore The Ignorant. Throughout this time, Marr earned recognition as one of the greatest guitar players of all time from such outlets as Rolling Stone and SPIN. With The Messenger, Marr continues to evolve as he steps into the spotlight for the first true solo album of his career.

The 12-song collection captures Marr's musical vision exactly as he imagined, featuring his signature guitar and vocals front-and-center on a sound which mixes elements of angular art rock, indie and rock n' roll. The Messenger was written and produced by Marr himself. Based in Portland, Oregon since 2005, Marr returned to the U.K. in early 2012 to commence work on the album. Recorded in Manchester and Berlin, it was mastered at Abbey Road by Frank Artwright who recently collaborated with Marr on the re-mastering work for The Smiths' box set Complete.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Paul Williams Reminds Us That He's "Still Alive" With New DVD

Any chance that I can get to remind readers that Smokey and the Bandit was the longest running film in my hometown for two decades, I take.

But the decision to brag about this very telling statement of my former zip code today is less to do with the mustached brilliance of one Burt Reynolds (get well soon, Rey Rey!) but the overlooked cameo of Paul Williams, the Coors loving Little Enos Burdette who helps dream up a plan to have two dimwitted rednecks risk the lives of motorists throughout the southeastern United States, just so they could bootleg some scab beer that isn't available in their area.

Williams was omnipotent throughout the 70's, appearing in a plethora of variety shows, comedy cameos, and what seemed to be a permanent seat in Johnny Carson's Tonight Show guest line up.

He was unique looking, which made him easy to ridicule somewhat, particularly if you didn't know that Williams was a hugely accomplished songwriter and musician.

I remember my dad cluing me in on this when I got a copy of Three Dog Night's "Just An Old Fashioned Love Song" single, penned by non other than the short dude with blonde hair and glasses from Omaha.

By the 80's, Williams seemingly disappeared. He remained in hiding for many years, popping up ocassionally on an episode of Walker Texas Ranger or collecting paychecks for voice-over work.

His abscence caused one fan to take note, to the point where he actively sought out Paul Williams and filmed the results.

The subsequent film looks intriguing, but judge for yourself from the carefully selected words detailing this look at an Academy Award winning composer, Paul Williams:

Paul Williams was everywhere in the 1970s - on records, the radio, TV and movies - but he suddenly walked away from it all, and a new generation of pop music lovers has no idea who he is. Director Stephen Kessler sets out to remedy that situation in Paul Williams: Still Alive. Kessler's "fascinating" (Entertainment Weekly) and "endearing" (Paste) film about his journey to find his musical hero will bring the songwriting genius to longtime fans and new listeners alike when it arrives on DVD on February 5, 2013, from Virgil Films. 

Even if you don't know songwriter Paul Williams, you know his timeless classics, such as the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" and "Rainy Days and Mondays," Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen," Three Dog Night's "Just an Old Fashioned Love Song" and the Muppets' "Rainbow Connection." Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and David Bowie, among other giants, have recorded his songs. He has won Grammys and an Oscar, made his own hit records, had a busy acting career, including starring in Smokey and the Bandit and Brian DePalma's The Phantom of the Paradise, and made 50 appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. But where has he been for the last 20 years? Stephen Kessler (Vegas Vacation) wanted to know, so he set out to find Williams. 

The result is an exhilarating film about a fan finally meeting his hero and getting him to open up about his career and why he seemed to simply give it all up. The revelations in Paul Williams: Still Alive will stun and move fans, particularly when Williams opens up about his personal struggles and his triumphant return to the music industry as the president of ASCAP. A wistful musical journey that will reintroduce a new generation to Williams' soulful classics, Paul Williams: Still Alive is the charmingly self-narrated story of what happens when a nostalgic filmmaker finally catches up with his hero.